The Cost of Suing: Obtaining Judgment In Canada
By: Coulton Bell, B.Comm
Priority Credit Recovery Inc. & Lien-Pro Inc.
When asked how much it will cost to sue, the most appropriate answer, and laughably infamous among the legal community, is “it depends.” The reason being is that each case or situation is different; so, only a qualified answer can be given for a situation of foreseeable speculation and uncertainty. Nevertheless, it is possible to give guidelines and approximations. Retainers of thousands of dollars are not always necessary. The small claims courts across Canada have provided a solution to the exorbitant costs and expenses that many of us have been conditioned to expect come hand-in-hand with litigation. In this article, I will begin by outlining the basic process of suing in small claims. Although there are some differences, the structure of the small claims court process is generally the same in each province. I will then outline the similarities and differences in costs to conclude.
In general terms, a Civil Lawsuit is the court-based process through which Person A can seek to hold Person B liable for some type of wrong. Usually, if Person A is successful, he or she will be awarded compensation for the harm that resulted from Person B’s action or inaction.
- In each province, the process begins with filing a Civil Claim in Provincial Court. The Civil Claim outlines the parties involved, the amount of money the Plaintiff/Claimant is asking for when the problem occurred, and the reasons for suing. Each province differs in the maximum amount that a person can sue for (an exhibit will detail each province’s cost).
- The second step is to give the Defendant a copy of the Civil Claim. This is called “Service” or “serving the defendant.” Once the Plaintiff has served the Defendant, the Plaintiff must complete an Affidavit of Service. An Affidavit is a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court, that the contents in the document are true. In other words, that service occurred. Once the Defendant is served, and an Affidavit is sworn/affirmed, the Affidavit is filed in court. Once the Defendant has been served, they have a certain period to respond, which differs depending on the province but is roughly around 20 days from the time the Defendant was served.
- If the Defendant files a response/dispute, the courts will schedule a mediation or pre-trial. As a response to a civil claim, the Defendant will either completely dispute the civil claim and/or the Defendant may “counterclaim” (a counterclaim is a claim made to offset another claim, especially one made by the defendant in a legal action). In either case, if the Defendant disputes the Civil Claim, either a Mediation/Pre-Trial will be set by the court. The purpose of the mediation/pre-trial is to bring the Plaintiff and Defendant together in hopes to work out a settlement or arrangement to resolve the claim/lawsuit. If a resolution can be reached, the process ends. If a resolution cannot be reached, a Trial will be scheduled. A Trial is a formal examination of evidence before a judge to decide the outcome of the civil proceedings.
- If the Defendant does not file a response, the Plaintiff can a) note the Defendant in default or b) file for Default Judgment
- Noting the Defendant in Default: Noting the following Defendants in Default is done we are suing for damages. Damages are a loss that you have suffered and is a sum which is not a result of an agreement with the Defendant. Examples include compensation for injuries which you suffered. If you note the Defendant in Default, either a Mediation/Pre-Trial will be set by the court.
- Filing for Default Judgment: Entering Default Judgment against the Defendant is done when we have served the Defendant, they have not responded to the civil claim, AND the exact amount of loss/damages is known. If you are suing for an amount agreed to in a contract, you can ask the court office to enter judgment against the defendant. This is common when suing for recovery of a debt.
In any case, the purpose of suing someone is to compensate victims for their losses. Whether by default judgment, mediation, pre-trial, or trial, a Judge will look at the evidence presented and either award a Judgment or throw the case out. The goal of this process is to obtain a Judgment in the Plaintiffs favor. If the judge decides to throw the case out, the process ends here. If the judge awards a Judgment, and a variety of court orders may be issued to enforce a right, award damages, or impose a temporary or permanent injunction to prevent an act or compel an act (all of which would depend on what you sued for originally.)
THE COST TO FILE YOUR CLAIM
There is a filing fee associated with each civil claim. Additional costs will be necessary to obtain judgment; however, they are quite minimal. You will have to serve the defendant, swear an affidavit, possible go to mediation, or pre-trial, and the file your judgment in superior court/Court of Queen’s Bench.
The cost to file your claim can be seen in the exhibit at the end of this document.
Serving the defendant can be done in a few ways, the most notable are the following three:
- You can serve the defendant yourself by personally handing him the documents. You must then swear your affidavit in front of a notary or commissioner for oaths which may cost around $50.00
- You can serve the defendant via registered mail by mailing it to their personal residence. The registered mail will cost about $10.00 and then swear the affidavit will cost $50.00
- You can hire a personal service company (the most expensive method of the three). The range in cost will vary depending on the difficulty and distance they must travel to serve the person, in addition to costs varying between agencies. I would budget $200.00 for this service
The cost of mediation, pre-trial, and/or trial
- Nominally, this process does not cost any money. However, court times are usually between 9 am and 4 pm so you may have factor in things like taking a day off work, travel costs, parking.
To conclude, the cost to obtain judgment is relatively small in any of the provinces.
(as of January 2018)
|$100 filing fee: claims $1.00 – $3,000.00
$156 filing fee: over $3,000.00
$35,000.00 Claim Maximum
|$100 filing fee: claims $1.00 – $7,500.00
$200 filing fee: over $7,500.00
$50,000.00 Claim Maximum
|$20 filing fee: claims $1.00 – $2.000.00
$1% of claim, up to a maximum of $100.00 filing fee: over $2,000.00
$30,000.00 Claim Maximum
|$50 filing fee: claims $1.00 – $5,000.00
$200 filing fee: over $5,000.00
$10,000.00 Claim Maximum
|ONTARIO||$75 filing fee for Infrequent Filers (under ten claims per year)
$145 filing fee for Frequent Filers (10+ claims per year)
$25,000.00 Claim Maximum
|$50 filing fee: claims $1.00 – $3,000.00
$100 filing fee: over $3,000.00
$12,500.00 Claim Maximum
|QUEBEC||$100 filing fee: claims $1.00 – $5,000.00
$185 filing fee: $5,000.00 – $10,000.00
$200 filing fee: $10,000.00 – $15,000.00
$15,000.00 Claim Maximum
|NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR
|$50 filing fee: claims $1.00 – $500.00
$100 filing fee: over $500.00
$25,000.00 Claim Maximum
|$99.70 filing fee: claims $1.00 – $5,000.00
$100 filing fee: over $5,000.00 – 25,000.00
$25,000.00 Claim Maximum
|PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
|$100 filing fee
$16,000.00 Claim Maximum